District Paid Convicted Felon Millions Without Bid
Invoiced Handwritten, Provide Few Details Of Services
7:58 AM, May 19, 2011
Some are questioning why Wayne Township Schools paid a convicted felon millions of dollars for lawn care and snow removal without bidding out for the service.In addition to the district's own four-person ground crew, David Lawrence has been working as a contractor at the schools since the mid-1990s, district spokeswoman Mary McDermott-Lang told 6News' Kara Kenney.In 2009, Lawrence was convicted for methamphetamine possession and 24 firearms were removed from his home, according to a police report.He was sentenced to home detention but allowed to work with the district. He is no longer on home detention but has to check in with corrections daily, records show."This problem he's had outside of work has never affected his work," McDermott-Lang said. "He's not in contact with children, so the rationale with the district is that his work has been very good, and so we've decided to keep him."Through a public records request, 6News asked for all payments from the district to Lawrence and received invoices showing at least $3.3 million paid to Lawrence since 2006.Most of the invoices were handwritten with few details included.For example, one invoice read, "5 men on Grounds Crue (sic)" and charged the district $14,490.Another invoice charged $53,575 for painting walls, cutting grass and drilling holes for a new fence. The district was charged $25,599 for weeding flower beds, patching holes, cutting grass and work on the track, according to another invoice.Many of the invoices were signed off on by the initials JRM. McDermott-Lang said they were likely those of John Maples, former chief operations officer who retired last year after allegations of sexual harassment.Other school districts contacted by 6News said they either use their own grounds crew for snow removal and lawn care or bid out for those services, which the State Board of Accounts strongly encourages.McDermott-Lang said she could not answer why the district had not bid out for lawn care and snow removal in the past, but said the school system's four-person ground crew sometimes isn't enough to cover 550 acres and 27 buildings."We have moved toward a system of making sure we're as accountable as we can be for our taxpayer dollars, and we have moved toward bidding those services out," she said. "We feel it's a way to show accountability, a way to show we are looking to see what else is out there."The district bid out for lawn care, snow removal, general trades and small tools repair on April 1.Lawrence was awarded all services, with the exception of the small tools repair service, but the process did save the district about $50,000 after Lawrence lowered his rate from $40.25 an hour per crew member to $34.50 an hour.6News did not find Lawrence at his home or work Thursday. Corrections officials said Lawrence has passed recent drug tests.McDermott-Lang said the district is asking for more information from Lawrence, including time sheets and work orders."We're making an effort to get a lot more detail in the work that's being done," she said.The district has cut $10 million from its budget since 2007, including teaching positions, and has been under fire recently for its $1 million retirement payout for former superintendent Terry Thompson.